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5 More Mobile Apps That Could Get Acquired

Sarah Thomas

The intersection of mobility and social networking is proving to be a goldmine for the applications developers who nail the blend. And Facebook 's $1 billion plan to acquire Instagram is only shining more light on the market for mobile social apps. (See Oh Snap! Facebook to Buy Instagram for $1B and Mobile Bubble, Mo' Trouble.)

So, which app will be the next to be snatched up?

You can bet a number of companies are hoping to be the answer. Juniper Research Ltd. analyst Charlotte Miller says that the most likely candidates are small companies, particularly games developers, who look like they might attract a large number of users away from established players.

Case in point, OMGPOP has been around for five years with 35 games, but it took Draw Something, one highly addictive game attracting 35 million downloads, to catch the eye of Zynga Inc. , which recently bought it for a cool $180 million.

"Who wouldn't have liked to have bought Rovio before it got big?" Miller says. "We will also see a healthy number of startups being purchased by big players such as Facebook , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) as they look to bring in innovative and talented staff outside the usual recruitment procedures."

Here's a look at five mobile social apps that Light Reading Mobile thinks are likely to be the ones to get acquired.

1. Pinterest: If you haven't heard of this virtual pinboard site, ask your daughter, wife, a growing number of businesses or any of the other 21.5 million weekly visitors. The invite-only site is the fastest-growing social network ever. That, plus $34.5 million in funding, is sure to catch the eye of a company like Google or potentially even an Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN).

2. WhatsApp: It's giving the wireless operators a headache as it's signed up 20 million users for its SMS alternative, but that's also what makes it a good acquisition target. Which company would do the acquiring is less clear, as it could be a good fit for a handset maker, software player or even an agile operator that's willing to think outside the box. (See SMS Boom Days Are Over.)

3. Mocospace: As Miller says, gaming apps are a hot commodity, and Mocospace boasts the largest community of mobile gamers at 22 million registered. It's free and runs on HTML5, meaning it has a large base of potential users still left. And, while it may not have one game that’s gotten as much buzz as Draw Something or Angry Birds, its total portfolio should make it attractive to a company like Facebook or Zynga that's looking to dominate in social gaming.

4. Evernote: Evernote Corp. won a spot in Light Reading's Leading Lights as a best new mobile app or service for its simple, cloud-based note-taking app. Now, more than 12 million people have taken note (geddit?) of the app and are using it on a regular basis. Seems like it could be a good fit for Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Phone operating system to bring new life to OneNote, its relatively basic note-taking app. (See Leading Lights Finalists: Best New Service or App (Mobile).)

5. Square: Mobile commerce is one of the hottest topics in mobility today, and Square Inc. is the hottest startup in mobile commerce. Any company -- including operators and handset makers -- that wants to get serious about contactless payments has to at least study Square from a competitive standpoint, but potentially from an M&A point of view too. (See T-Mobile Squares Off on Mobile Payments.)

Building this list proved to be relatively easy given all the hot startups there are that sit at that intersection of mobile and social. Some other candidates include Dropbox, Path, Yelp, Idle Games, Kiva, Strobe, PlayHaven and Springpad ... and that's just to name a few.

Who do you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:36:37 PM
re: 5 More Mobile Apps That Could Get Acquired

WhatsApp is by far the most successful OTT messaging or voice service that isn't one of the big giants (Skype/Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc.)  And it looks like they are primed for acquisition.

As much of a threat as all these companies are to operators, do they have a legitimate business model of their own?  Is freemium really going to work?  Or are they all more or less playing to get acquired by, or at least partnered with, an incumbent of some sort?



Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:36:36 PM
re: 5 More Mobile Apps That Could Get Acquired

I agree about WhatsApp -- they said in February that they send 2 billion messages across their platform per day, up from 1 billion a few months prior to that. 

Mobile operators need to come to terms with OTT players in some way, especially as they ramp up LTE data networks - why not snap up a player like WhatsApp before it can establish stronger billing relationships with its users (which I think it wants to do this year)? 

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